The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has opened the 22nd Basic School for Uniformed Officers, the 29-week training academy in Pulaski to prepare the newest class of recruits for careers as Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Forest Rangers.
The academy opened May 19, with 42 ECO and 16 Forest Ranger candidates reporting for duty. Of the 58, 10 are women – seven ECO recruits and three Forest Ranger recruits. The future officers hail from 31 counties across New York State, with three recruits from New Jersey, and one each from Maine and North Carolina. The recruits range in age from 22 to 48 years old.
The academy runs from Sunday evenings to Friday afternoons, during which time recruits are expected to log 1,538 hours of training. While the first few weeks focus primarily on basic police skills such as physical training, drill and ceremony, and computer skills, recruits will also receive training in firearms, swiftwater rescues, wildland fire suppression, and emergency vehicle operation. Graduation is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 6.
ECO job duties are centered on the 71 chapters of New York State Environmental Conservation Law and range from investigating deer poaching, conducting surveillance on a company suspected of dumping chemical waste, or checking fishing licenses on a local waterway. In 2018, ECOs responded to more than 21,668 calls and issued more than 20,665 tickets.
Forest Ranger duties focus on the public’s use of DEC-administered state lands and forests and can span from patrolling state properties to conducting search and rescue operations to fighting forest fires. In 2018, DEC Forest Rangers conducted 346 search-and-rescue missions that helped protect the public, extinguished 105 wildfires that burned a total of 845 acres, participated in 24 prescribed fires that burned and rejuvenated 610 acres, and worked on cases that resulted in 2,354 tickets or arrests. You can read about those operations here, and short staffing of Adirondack Forest Rangers here.
ECOs and Forest Rangers are full-fledged New York State Police officers and are often called upon to assist in some of New York’s most important police work. They were among the first responders on the scene to help in the aftermath of Sept. 11, assisted in the response to Superstorm Sandy, helped in the 2015 search for two escaped felons from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, and have traveled to battle wildfires in the western United States.
ECOs, originally called Game Protectors, were first appointed for service in 1880. The first Forest Rangers, originally known as Fire Wardens, were put into service in 1885 when the New York State Legislature established the Forest Preserve of New York State.
The recruits in this newest class were selected from an eligible list of qualifications and passing scores generated from the most recent Civil Service exam, which became active in March of 2017. To view job qualifications for ECOs, visit the Environmental Conservation Officer job description webpage and for Forest Rangers, visit the Forest Ranger job description webpage. For an inside look into what it takes to be an ECO or a Forest Ranger, watch a 4-minute clip from 2017’s Basic School for Uniformed Officers available on YouTube.
Upon graduation, recruits will be assigned patrol areas, typically consisting of one or two counties. They will join the ranks of 284 ECOs and 131 Forest Rangers currently serving across the state.
Photo of ECO and Forest Ranger basic training provided.